New Delhi: The National Commission of Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that there are 9,346 children, who have been abandoned, orphaned or lost a parent to the COVID-19 pandemic as per the data submitted to it by different states till May 29.
The Maharashtra government which filed a separate note before a bench of Justices L N Rao and Aniruddha Bose said that 4,451 children have lost one of their parents due to the pandemic and 141 children have lost both parents as per the data received from different areas till May 30.
The NCPCR, in its affidavit filed through advocate Swarupama Chaturvedi, said states leading the chart like Uttar Pradesh has 2,110 such children, Bihar (1,327), Kerala (952) and Madhya Pradesh (712).
The top court asked state government authorities to continue uploading the data on NCPCR’s website ‘Bal Swaraj’ till June 7 and furnish the details of the children affected by COVID-19.
The top court has been hearing an application, in a pending suo motu case on the spread of COVID-19 in children homes, filed by the amicus curiae highlighting the woes being faced by kids orphaned by the deadly virus.
The NCPCR affidavit said that considering the surge of COVID-19, and consequently a large number of deaths, it has become essential that additional efforts be made to ensure that the rights of children are protected.
It said the first step is to identify the child in need and develop a mechanism for tracking each child who has been orphaned or has lost a parent to COVID-19 and may not have any financial support.
“Therefore, every such child affected by COVID-19 and found to be in distress and without family support must be produced before the concerned Child Welfare Committee under Section 31 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015,” it said.
The Commission said it has devised the portal, ‘Bal Swaraj’ which is being used to collect data of such children.
The NCPCR also flagged concerns that it has been receiving many complaints alleging that private individuals and organizations are involved in data collection of such children stating that they want to provide assistance to the orphaned children, but are giving away them to families in adoption without following the legal procedure.
“In response to these complaints, the Commission took out an advisory dated May 2, 2021, to Chief Secretaries of all States/UTs informing about the growing problem of illegal adoption during the second surge of COVID-19 and advising to produce the children before the Child Welfare Committees, so that necessary action can be taken in the best interest of those children,” it said.
The NCPCR further said that it had also been receiving complaints of disclosure of children’s (children who have lost both or either of the parent to COVID-19) information by government authorities to private NGO’s and organizations which was observed to be in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
“The Commission has been taking cognizance of these complaints under Section 13(1)(j) of the CPCR Act, 2005 and asking the State Government and law enforcement authorities to take necessary actions. A letter informing about these complaints was also issued to Chief Secretaries of all States/UTs on May 26, 2021, to look into this matter and ensure that no information of any child is disclosed with any person/ entity/ organization,” it said.
The NCPCR also highlighted the various steps they took during the pandemic to ensure the welfare and well-being of the child.
It said its online tracking portal ‘Bal Swaraj’ has been created for a digital real-time monitoring mechanism of children who are in need of care and protection.
“That the Commission has also launched ‘SAMVEDNA’ a tele-counselling service for children in COVID times. It provides support to children under stress or trauma because they are in Quarantine, or whose parents are in quarantine, or who has lost any family/ parent/ relative/ near or dear ones in a pandemic due to COVID-19,” the commission said.
The NCPCR said that it has also recommended State Governments to proactively review the status of preventive steps already taken by the States/UTs in the light of second surge of COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the safety of children staying in Child Care Institutions,” it said.